Archive for the ‘Lawyer Website Design’ Category
Monday, April 29th, 2013
Your online brand is the calling card that separates the real lawyers from the wannabes. It’s important for your online presence to reflect the professional image that you project in your own practice. A generic website says little more than that you exist and that you might be a good lawyer — or you might not? Custom lawyer website designs enable prospective clients to differentiate between the two. They readily identify your brand. The landing page and legal content within your lawyer website resonates with prospective clients getting them offline and on your appointment calendar.
Lawyer Success, Inc. designs a custom lawyer website to showcase your practice areas, curriculum vitae, location, client service venues, and more. We meet with you first, then design your custom lawyer website — before asking you to sign a contract or pay a deposit. We guarantee you’ll love the results! Our designs are based upon your preferences, rather than being limited to a specific set of design skills. Our work is proprietary; therefore, we don’t display sample lawyer website designs on our pages because we prefer not to share our trade secrets with our competitors — or yours (for reasons similar to the fact that you don’t draft legal forms and post them online). However, happy clients make for great testimonials and we do feature a few of their lawyer websites on our pages, which speak to our talent and client satisfaction level.
Getting your lawyer website noticed – in a positive way — is critical to your practice, and it just happens to be what we do best! Accomplishing this requires:
- Reader satisfaction. The layout of headers, indentations, and whitespace is essential. In fact, reading comprehension for prospective clients increases by nearly 20-percent when white space is left between the paragraphs and in the left and right margins.
- Black vs. Blue. Despite the fact that black lines have higher visual contrast, prospective clients find blue easier to click.
- Icons vs. Links. In navigating your lawyer website, prospective clients prefer links to icons when given a choice.
- Labels. Prospective clients tend to read more copy and browse longer when they find prominent navigation options and clear labels on a lawyer website.
- Perception driven choice. The ultimate decision of a prospective client to choose you to be his (or her) legal counsel can easily be driven by perceived security, privacy, quality of content, and design. Your lawyer website is their first impression of your brand. Make it a good one — customization makes you stand out!
Simplify to save time and money
Our job is to simplify your role in the custom design of your lawyer website. We not only save you time, but Lawyer Success, Inc. also helps you generate leads to convert more web-based client business than any other lawyer-specialty marketing solution firm. Personalized project management and free lawyer website design sets us apart from our competitors, and ensures a World Class Web-presence for you at No Risk!
Call For Free Advice & Guidance From Experts, Not Sales People! Call 1 (800) 877-2776 Today.
Monday, March 4th, 2013
The objective of a lawyer website is to attract prospective clients to your webpage, then compel them to linger over the content and to ultimately contact your office. Graphical appearance, color, and layout are all important elements of any website design. The thing that distinguishes lawyer website design from that of a retailer website, for example, is content. Retailers are marketing goods, while lawyers are marketing services. Content separates goods from services, and retailers from lawyers. Content is the substantive basis for marketing a lawyer website, while design compliments the content.
At LawyerSuccess, Inc., we have the skill-set to create a custom-designed lawyer website from scratch. We can design your lawyer website based-on the features, design elements, and colors you prefer. If something has caught-your-eye on one, or even several other websites, our team can integrate many of those elements into your own lawyer website design. We can also incorporate the design of your existing or future lawyer website into a WordPress blog — achieving a seamless result. In other words, your blog pages and lawyer website have the same look and feel when a prospective client is navigating between the two sites.
Engaging the lawyer website services of LawyerSuccess, Inc. has many distinct advantages:
- Custom Design – LawyerSuccess, Inc. meets with you first, then designs your website before you are asked to sign a contract or pay a deposit. We guarantee you’ll love the customized lawyer website design we create for you. No risk, just results!
- Content Management – LawyerSuccess, Inc. makes sure your lawyer website and optional web blog are accessible via your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, or Android smart phone. This access enables you to add content, edit web pages, format content, add articles, blog posts, videos, audio and much more!
- Programming assistance – Lawyer Success, Inc. teaches you how to perform the simple functions of programming your lawyer website; or, we can do it for you at no extra cost!
- SEO (search engine optimization) – LawyerSuccess, Inc. maximizes the number of visitors to your website using SEO content to ensure that your results remain high on the search list returned by Google. An example of an SEO phrase is “lawyer website design,” utilized by LawyerSuccess, Inc., on the page you are currently viewing — which clearly brought us an excellent result with your visit to our website! SEO language is garnered from Internet research that ranks websites based upon keyword usage. The goal is to keep the SEO simple and likely.
- Top rankings – LawyerSuccess, Inc. knows that Google and other search engines love blogs. The reason is that blogs are easy to spider (e.g., to seek-out and index information online), they offer fast upload times, RSS (really simple syndication) capabilities, commenting, and the constant fresh content that is both relevant and resourceful.
- 24/7-support – LawyerSuccess, Inc. is best in class for client support, and answering your questions or making updates to your lawyer website or blog. Our experts are available around-the-clock, which can be pretty handy if you’ve spent a late evening preparing for trial, but wanted to post something pressing before the next day.
No risk lawyer website design
There is absolutely No Risk for trying our service. When you call Lawyer Success, Inc., ask us about the No Risk lawyer website design offer. This means, if you do not like the design we put together — you do not pay!
Free Advice Hotline – Call (800) 877-2776-6099
Thursday, November 1st, 2012
Lawyers and law firms:
Define your market; focus your message
Janet Ellen Raasch
Janet Ellen Raasch is a writer and ghostwriter who works closely with lawyers, law firms and other professional services providers – helping them establish themselves as thought leaders within a target markets through publication of articles and books for print and rich content for the Internet. She can be reached at (303) 399-5041.
Each lawyer and law firm faces the same problem – how to distinguish the professional services they offer from those offered by every other lawyer and every other law firm.
If you are no different from your competitors, then you are a commodity – and should expect a career shaped by commodity work at commodity prices. If you want to attract the best work at the best prices, you must strategically differentiate yourself from the pack. You must identify your own unique message – and take it to market.
“Most lawyers and law firms have a very hard time narrowing their focus,” said Ross Fishman, an attorney and consultant (www.rossfishmanmarketing) to the professional services industry. “They want to be all things to all people – ‘full service’ firms that market to ‘anyone, anywhere who needs any legal service.’”
To illustrate the points he made in his June 15 presentation to the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, Fishman used slides featuring more than 100 real-life examples of marketing materials from law firms around the country.
“When you look at the message used to promote some of the largest national law firms,” said Fishman, “and compare it with the message used by a five-attorney local firm – often, the message is identical. How are consumers to decide which law firm best suits their needs when so many firms are promoting themselves the same way?”
To demonstrate what he means, Fishman has compiled a generic message that could apply to almost any law firm in the nation.
It reads something like this:
Our firm is big/small and old and has a distinguished history. We offer the technical skills of a large firm and the collegial culture of a small firm. Our lawyers work as a team. We are efficient, service-oriented and we partner with our clients. We are very community-service oriented.
We represent absolutely everyone, from individuals to international corporations, in every conceivable area of the law – from ADR to Zoning. We are the best in every single one of these areas. Here are 24 pages of alphabetical descriptions of every practice area.
Our message is illustrated with photos of our city skyline, our building, our lobby and/or conference room, a group of diverse lawyers staring seriously at the camera with law books in the background, and area courthouses – especially their columns and their front steps.
Our graphics include chessboards (“We are strategic”); light bulbs (“We have good ideas”); handshakes (“We partner with clients”); globes and maps (“We are national or global”); laptops (“We are high-tech”); and gavels and scales of justice (“We are – big surprise – lawyers”).
Unfortunately, each of these clichéd verbal and visual messages only reinforces the impression among potential clients that all law firms are alike. “The good news is that this creates an enormous opportunity for those firms that are willing to differentiate themselves,” said Fishman.
Differentiation based on service
“A unique message or brand has many benefits,” said Fishman. “It differentiates you from the competition. It shows what you stand for, tells potential clients what they can expect from you, enhances the value of your services (so you can charge more) and puts you on the short list for certain kinds of work.”
An effective message is one that targets a specific market segment and a specific audience. “The automotive industry understands this,” said Fishman. “All cars get you from one place to another. However, manufacturers in this industry have successfully created brands that are identified with a wide variety of qualities – like speed, safety and luxury. If you have any doubt, just take a careful look at car ads.”
Similarly, a law firm should create a message around a singular quality that satisfies the needs of the firm’s ideal client – a quality that no other law firm in a particular market has claimed as its own. For example, a firm can focus on service, responsiveness, style/attitude, humor, speed, price, client type, experience, comfort/security, practice group, industry group, target community or geography.
“When I was marketing partner at Coffield Ungaretti & Harris,” said Fishman, “we did our research and decided to differentiate the firm on the basis of its service. To promote this, we offered the industry’s first ‘Written Service Guarantee’ and marketed the heck out of it. We were able to generate enormous attention. This message helped grow the firm’s revenue by more than 50 percent in the first year – in an otherwise flat economy.”
When differentiating the Chicago-based labor and employment firm Laner Muchin, Fishman focused on the message of “responsiveness.” “Lack of responsiveness is among the biggest complaints clients express about law firms,” said Fishman. “As I interviewed the partners, a recurring theme emerged – ‘We generally return all client phone calls within two hours.’ Bingo. The firm’s message became ‘Two hours. Period.’”
Laner Muchin issued a challenge and used advertising to push this challenge to non-client prospects (a group that was more likely to be dissatisfied by their existing lawyers’ lack of responsiveness): “Call your current lawyer and leave a message to return your call. Wait an hour or two (to give your lawyer a decent head start), then call one of our lawyers and leave the same message. See who calls you back first. We’re betting it’ll be us. If it’s not, we’ll buy you lunch and donate $100 to your favorite charity.”
“It was a win/win proposition,” said Fishman. “When we won the challenge, we made a strong positive impression on someone in a position to hire us. On those rare occasions when we lost the challenge, our punishment was a lunch date with a potential client!” To support the firm’s message, a stylized clock was designed into its logo.
Differentiation based on industry
Another way to differentiate a law firm is to focus on an industry segment – a segment big enough and healthy enough to provide you with good business, but small enough so that you can get your arms around it. “Find an appropriately sized pond, well-stocked with clients, and work hard to become a big, highly visible fish within this pond,” said Fishman. “For lawyers, this type of narrow focus is the only ‘silver bullet’ that exists.”
Most market segments are so large that you must drill down until you end up with a manageable sub-segment. For example, a firm’s message could target insurance defense work for Lasik surgeons in the greater Los Angeles area or divorce law for gay couples living in and around New York City.
In 1997, Fishman created the first prominent industry-based marketing program, helping Alabama’s Crosslin Slaten & O’Connor become “The Bug Lawyers.”
“This small general practice firm had a few clients in the pest control industry,” said Fishman. “This was a multi-billion industry that no law firm had targeted. It offered a finite universe, where everyone went to the same conventions and read the same publication, Pest Control Today. The firm’s website (currently offline) was revised to feature crawling termites and animated cursors of bugs that irreverently chewed away at the firm’s logo.”
There is no way you would confuse this law firm with any other. International publicity generated sizable firm revenue and sparked demand for industry-based campaigns.
Another example is Noland Hamerly Etienne & Hoss, a 20-lawyer general practice firm located in the heart of central California’s agriculture belt. Working with Fishman, the firm’s agriculture practice branded itself as “The Lettuce Lawyers.”
“We turned the ampersand in the firm logo into a green sprout when it was used by the group,” said Fishman. “Ads in industry publications show the lawyers in agricultural settings – on horses, inspecting grape vines, and posing as the man and woman in the iconic rural painting, ‘American Gothic.’ The practice group created seed packets to give away as business cards. Instead of coffee mugs, it gives out bib overalls that feature the firm’s logo.”
When a marketing director or consultant works with a law firm, practice group or lawyer to create a focused message, process is very important and persuasive.
“You must do your research and take a structured approach,” said Fishman. “This involves reading the firm’s promotional materials, interviewing a broad cross-section of lawyers and staff (including those you expect might be opposed to your project), and interviewing clients and former clients on the firm’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the marketplace.
“Be attentive to recurring themes and unique specialties that emerge as part of this process,” said Fishman. “Most likely, these will steer you to your unique message. Once you have your message, you can find creative and interesting ways to take it to market.”
Wednesday, October 31st, 2012
You can’t have one without the other:
Market research leads to strategic plans that work
By Janet Ellen Raasch
Janet Ellen Raasch is a writer/ghostwriter who works closely with lawyers and other professional services providers – helping them promote themselves as thought leaders within their target markets through publication of instructive article, books, white papers and content for the Internet. She can be reached at (303) 399-5041 or email@example.com.
How is your law practice perceived by the consumers in your target market? Should you add a new practice group or a new office? How loyal are your existing clients?
When faced with questions like these, too many law firms continue to make decisions based on a subjective “gut reaction” or a “best guess.” Most businesses, by comparison, make their bet-the-company decisions based on objective, valid market research.
Market research is a systematic and scientific process for gathering, recording and analyzing outside information – information that should provide the basis for a law firm’s strategic plan and operational decision-making.
“There is no intrinsic value in market research for the sake of market research,” said Marci Dunning, president of Access/Information. “The value lies in what you do with the objective information you acquire; how you use it to make better decisions.”
An introduction to market research in the law firm environment was provided by a three-person panel that addressed the monthly meeting of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, held Nov. 8 at the Denver Athletic Club.
In addition to Dunning, participants included Deirdre Martel, director of marketing research at Quality Education Data (www.qeddata.com) and Wanda McDavid, vice president for business development and network operations of Access/Information (www.access-information.com).
The advantages and techniques of both primary and secondary market research were discussed. Primary market research is original research; information is collected directly from a respondent. It can be either qualitative or quantitative, depending upon the needs of the law firm. Secondary market research, often called “desk research,” focuses on the collection and interpretation of research already conducted by others.
Most law firms will turn to an outside consultant for primary market research – someone who understands how to formulate the hypothesis and then create a qualitative or quantitative research design that will yield valid and reliable results about the hypothesis.
Primary research – qualitative
“Qualitative primary market research is exploratory in nature,” said Martel. “It can provide an understanding of how things are, or why they are a certain way. It is a valuable tool for pre-testing a hypothesis before you take action based on the hypothesis. It is less structured and, therefore, usually less expensive than quantitative research.
“For example, a law firm could use qualitative research to test the reaction of a sample of target clients to a proposed brochure,” said Martel. “Does the piece actually convey the message that the firm wants to convey? If not, it can be re-designed – saving the firm a lot of money on printing and mailing something that does not work.”
A law firm could also use qualitative research to discover why it did not get the expected response to a particular proposal or a presentation – and then use this information to refine its process the next time around. It could be used with a sample of mock jurors, to pre-test the effectiveness of courtroom arguments.
Qualitative research uses a variety of tools, including in-depth interviews and focus groups of various sizes. “In-person interviews and focus groups allow the researchers to supplement what a person says with observations of non-verbal behaviors,” said Martel. “They also allow the use of physical props like storyboards, prototypes or samples.
“An increasingly popular tool is a hand-held device that allows members of a group – say in a retreat or a conference setting – to push a button to indicate their reaction to an idea or a product,” said Martel. “This allows the collection of large amounts of data quickly, and can also be used to collect quantitative data.”
Qualitative research can also be conducted online. “With a properly designed tool, this is a good way to reach widely-dispersed populations,” said Martel. “It protects respondent identities and increases the participation of those with social inhibitions. Participation is usually higher, it is faster, no travel is involved and it may be less costly.”
Primary research – quantitative
Quantitative primary market research uses statistics to test hypotheses about the marketplace. Random samples of individuals in the target population are selected and surveyed – usually no fewer than 100 individuals and often more. Surveys must be properly designed with measurement in mind; they can be conducted in person or by mail, telephone, email or the Internet.
If the correct process is followed, the results of the survey will represent the attitudes or behaviors a much larger universe. “Quantitative research provides a ‘snapshot’ of the market at any given point in time,” said Martel. “It is more time-consuming and costs more money than most qualitative research, but the results are highly accurate.
Quantitative research is used to measure client satisfaction, to measure the impact of marketing programs (including brand recognition), to quantify the size of new markets and new market opportunities, and to determine which new and existing legal services clients intend to purchase in the future.
“Quantitative research can also be used to help an attorney prepare for litigation,” said Martel. “For example, in a case involving drowsiness claims in antihistamines, lawyers for Pfizer sponsored an independent research survey that asked 1,000 physicians if they considered its product, Zyrtec, to be sedating or non-sedating.”
Secondary research is an organized process of collecting and interpreting information that has been published elsewhere. “In the old days, this had to be done the hard way – combing through the dusty stacks of libraries,” said McDavid. Today, the bulk of secondary research is done online.
“If you read them purposefully, as sources of marketing information, there is still a lot of information that can be gleaned from newspapers and magazines – especially those with a legal, business or industry focus,” said Dunning. “There are clues about the economy, your competitors, and current and emerging markets.”
Ideally, a law firm has adopted a strategic plan that identifies its most valuable current clients and its most desirable future clients. “With this information in hand,” said McDavid, “you can use research to understand their industries, identify legal trends within their industries, and analyze the kind of legal work they need.”
There is a wealth of information about most companies – especially public companies – available on their websites. “For private companies, Dunn & Bradstreet is the best resource,” said Dunning. “Use the Internet to search for information, including the gossip that appears on blogs, about the company.”
Yahoo! Finance is a free service that allows a secondary researcher to search by company or competitor name, by ticker symbol or by industry. Search Systems Net provides free access to more than 35,000 public records databases. Industry association websites sometimes include their own primary research; almost all include links to good sources.
“There is a wealth of good information available to the public, if you have the time and the knowledge to find it and plow through it,” said McDavid. “Professional market research consultants know how to find information, how to interpret it, and how to prepare executive summaries that save lawyers and law firm marketers a lot of time.
“In addition, a number of players in the legal industry have created customizable products that law firms can use to greatly simplify their secondary research efforts,” said McDavid. “They are not free, but here is where you might have to spend money in order to make money.”
The most prominent of these new tools are Practice Intelligence by CCH Incorporated (www.cch.com), Market Intelligence by LexisNexis (www.lexisnexis.com) and Firm360 by Thomson (www.firm360.com). Following the panel presentation, representatives of Firm360 offered a preview of their product, which is typical of these tools.
Firm360 offers a litigation profile function that aggregates information from reported cases and dockets from Westlaw in order to reveal the litigation trends of companies, industries, law firms, attorneys and judges.
The company monitor function aggregates information from public records, Westlaw, Thomson Financial and numerous third-party providers to create online ‘company watch lists’ that are updated automatically.
The report builder function creates printed reports about key clients that can be used to prepare for meetings with clients and potential clients.
“In these rapidly changing times, where information spreads over the Internet almost instantaneously,” said Martel, “what you don’t know CAN hurt you. No law firm should make a business decision without the appropriate objective market research.”
Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
Here’s a news flash that most writers will surely find distressing—web readers usually actually read less than a third of the content of any given page. Whether this is because the reader actually found what he was looking for by the time he had read that amount or because he realized this was not the information he was after is unclear. Or, a third choice could be that the information the reader is looking for was hidden behind loads of extraneous text which the reader had neither the time nor the inclination to sift through. People come to a website with a specific goal in mind and if they are unable to find the answer to their question they will hit the back button in the mere flash of a second.
Meeting Your Readers’ Needs
If you want to meet your reader’s needs, then no matter what subject you are writing about must be presented in the most efficient manner possible, and the old adage about less being more is true nowhere as much as on the web. Text that is rich with flowery or complicated words not only breaks your reader’s concentration—as they try to figure out what each words means—it also takes the attention away from the subject and puts it onto the words. Plain language encompasses and entire style of writing which allows the target audience to understand quickly and easily the first time they read a passage.
Organization is Key
Plain language is always well-organized as well as sharp and succinct. Think about having a conversation with a friend then eliminate anything which wouldn’t be part of that conversation. Writers who have spent many years writing prose may have the most difficult time with this advice, but remember—you are not banned from using any but the simplest words, so long as you ensure they are also familiar words to your readers. This means that you must know who your audience is. If you are writing for yourself in the form of a blog or on your own website, it is likely that you do know who your audience is. If you are writing for others, determining your target audience takes a bit more work. You may need to thoroughly dissect the site you are writing for in order to determine what the basic education level, work environment and level of technical expertise is regarding your subject.
How Important Is Plain Writing?
Plain writing is so important to reader comprehension that federal agencies are actually required—under the Plain Writing Act of 2010—to write their white papers, documents and websites in plain language that most all readers will comprehend. This particular law also requires that employees who will be engaged in writing will receive training on writing plainly. Suppose you have written your content using the plainest language possible. What else can you do to ensure your content is read?
Begin with the shortest, most concise statement you can possibly make about your subject. Make this statement both informative and immediately intriguing or engaging. Seconds are crucial here, so ensure this first statement is pure magic. Assuming you achieved that first goal, next make your page highly scannable with headlines for each paragraph chunk which makes a promise—and a paragraph that delivers. Provide clear links, use bulleted or numbered lists where appropriate and stay with short sentences. Finally, even if you are fairly certain you have a good handle on who your readers are, don’t ever assume they have specific knowledge of a subject or have read related pages. Write in such a way that each page will stand on its own, and write in plain, simple language.
Friday, June 22nd, 2012
The word “outline” takes many of us back to our high school English class and brings a shudder. The truth is, your English teacher was smarter than you think. Writers who want their content to be compelling, engaging, informative and sparkly would do well to engage in a bit of pre-writing before they sit down to write their article. Pre-writing can allow you first and foremost to focus intelligently on your topic while narrowing the focus. You will find that your mind opens to ideas you had not thought of once you engage in pre-writing. Pre-writing also allows you to identify any potential gaps in your information—gaps you may not have been aware of. If you tuned out during high school English, you will find some tips below which will allow you to organize your thoughts and thus your content in a way that will have your readers coming back for more.
Focused free writing—what you may know as stream of consciousness writing—is a good beginning point before you attempt an outline. Use a blank piece of paper or a blank computer screen and spend from 5-15 minutes summarizing your topic as you let your thoughts roam freely on the specific subject. You will write anything which comes to mind without stopping and without editing or even reviewing what you have written. When your time is up, take a look at your initial topic summary and re-write it. Is it different than the first? Look over your writing and determine whether there are words or ideas you can flesh out on your topic and if a main idea comes shining through.
Outlining and Listing
You are now ready for a more structured and sequential view of your research and your free-writing or brainstorming. Arrange your items and topics in a logical manner without worrying about punctuation, grammar or complete sentences. Make a list of your topics then structure them similarly. Sequence these topics according to their importance—if you have two topics which are equal in importance, place them at the same level; you will likely see one edge out the other as your writing progresses. You can outline on a piece of paper, but know that it will be messy when you are done. If you are someone who cringes at the thought of cross-outs and mark-throughs you should likely do your outline electronically, leaving a nice, pretty outline you can print out.
Reading and Thinking
One way to improve your writing is to read constantly. Make notes of writing styles which engage you and notice how the content is laid out. Writers who are oblivious to what is going on in the world will likely turn out content which is boring and trite. Take a few minutes a day to let your mind wander over ideas which have occurred to you over the past week or so, and capture those ideas on paper before you can forget them. Listening to the conversations of those around you is also a great way to come up with new ideas and inspiration as well as getting different perspectives on old subjects. When you have lots of new ideas, you are ready to pre-write and turn those ideas into valuable content.
Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012
Many experts believe the best way of ensuring your web content is interesting and compelling is to write about what you know rather than simply presenting a litany of dry information and facts. The fact is that authors who try to cover an unfamiliar topic without much information to go on will likely present that information in a mediocre or totally unconvincing manner. And since there is little window of opportunity for grabbing your reader’s attention, being unconvincing can result in a user who quickly clicks away to another website.
Writing What You Know—For Others
The problem with writing about what you know is that scores of web writers write for websites which belong to others. This means that on any given day web writers are writing about a slew of subjects they likely know little about and in some cases find the subject so uninteresting that they really don’t want to know that much. Authors take heed—try your best to never, ever approach a subject with that attitude or it is bound to come through in your writing. Just because you may not find the various types of environmentally-friendly paint a particularly compelling subject doesn’t mean you can’t write about it in such a way that will interest your readers.
And how do you do that you may wonder? Well, suppose you could care less whether your paint is environmentally friendly or not, but your readers actually do care? Approach your subject from your reader’s point of view. What would they want to know, what would make them care about this particular subject? Then, once you have those answers find out all you can about the subject until it actually becomes one of the things you know—then you can write about what you know. Writing about what you know does not limit you to writing only about encounters you’ve actually had, products you’ve actually tried or humans or animals you’ve actually met, it simply allows you to build on the foundation of what you know about life and humanity in order to create a compelling story. And after all, isn’t a compelling story the goal of every web writer?
Writing What You Know—For Yourself
If you are not limited to writing what other people pay you to write—not a bad gig, all in all—but are writing for yourself, they you have the opportunity to not only write about what you know but also to write what you want. One of the greatest benefits of having your own website or blog is that you are able to write about a subject which is very near to your heart. Writing for yourself gives you the freedom to use your unique life experiences and share them with your readers.
In some cases you may not know a lot about the subject you decide to write on, however it will likely be a subject which greatly interests you therefore the research is much less tedious than doing research for a subject which holds no interest for you. Aside from what interests you, write about the things that matter to you. If a subject matters deeply to you then you should be able to write about it in such a way that causes it to matter to your readers as well.
Venturing Outside What You Know
The flip side of writing about what you know is that this technique—unless you work hard at learning lots of new things—may never really stretch you as a writer. Writing out of your depth or about subjects you don’t know can actually take you into new and exciting territory if you open your mind to the possibilities. That being said, it is likely that you know lots more about lots more subjects than you even realize and in the end, every single article you write is just waiting to be shaped by your specific knowledge and imagination.
Friday, May 11th, 2012
Content strategy is a plan for creating and publishing useful, usable content on your legal website. In order to fully realize that goal, you must not only define—at least in your own mind—which content will be published, but you must be able to articulate why each piece will be published at all. If you don’t have a good understanding of your expectations from each published article, then there can be little reason to publish.
Content strategy should define your firm’s primary theme and intended message, cover the various topics you feel most important to your firm, explain how your articles will make the leap from what your business requires to what your potential clients need and finally will analyze any potential gaps in your content. Of course all content strategy plans should include a comprehensive discussion of SEO, taking into consideration the latest, most up-to-date search engine requirements including Google’s algorithms.
What Should I Be Looking For When Mapping Out Content Strategy?
Your first concern falls under the wide umbrella of editorial needs. These are the guidelines under which all content is governed, so to speak. They are the values, the voice, the tone and the legal concerns as well as the calendar which dictates the cycles you will publish under. Next is the web writing itself, which must be both high quality and imminently usable not to mention specifically intended for online publication. As most web writers know, there is an entirely different writing technique used for online publications as compared to print.
Online articles are shorter, more concise, and depend heavily on attention-grabbing headlines. Online articles generally hit the reader with a fast burst of information in the hopes of holding their attention to the end of the article. If you haven’t hooked your web reader within five seconds or less, research shows you have likely lost them for good. A great web writer will understand the user experience design, will be able to write effective metadata as well as manage an ever-changing content landscape.
Search engine optimization is a large part of content strategy as it seeks to increase the potential relevance of articles to specific search engine keywords. There will be a process of editing and organizing all content on each page as well as across the firm’s website. As technology constantly shifts and changes, content management strategy will attempt to capture, store, deliver and preserve the organizations content.
Content—Complicated and Messy
After the initial wave of writing content for a legal website, the time constraints usually set in, and the enthusiasm tends to wane. It’s at this point that website owners want to bury their head in the sand and pray that the content part of their website becomes someone else’s problem. It begins to feel complicated and messy and becomes the incredibly junky closet you throw everything into and try to avoid looking at.
At this point it’s time to engage in honest content dialogue with all those involved in the content of the firm’s website. Content dialogue must first expand the audience, attempting to engage a broader audience of consumers, and will also realize that everyone involved has a stake in the future of web content. Content and the practice of content strategy absolutely deserve our time and attention yet until we begin to treat it as the critical asset it is, worthy of planning and meaningful investment, it is likely we will keep turning out the same old stuff. It’s really not someone else’s problem. Learn about content strategy, practice it and promote it—your website will thank you for it.
Thursday, May 10th, 2012
Any time you display information on a webpage, the actual content and presentation are tied together; the information is tied to the visual design and the reader must be able to access the information then interpret it. The ultimate goal of the web is to make the content accessible to every user. Web content is neither tied to a specific operating system, software or even a computer—web content can be accessed on a wide variety of devices even some kitchen appliances can read web documents. The content can be displayed in a dizzying array of sizes, colors and fonts, limited only by the reader’s imagination. The goal of achieving device independence as well as access for all therefore must lie in the separation of presentation and content.
For those who are unclear about what exactly constitutes content and presentation, content refers to the information in your web pages as well as how that information is structured. Structure may appear to be somewhere floating between content and presentation however presentation would be meaningless without structure therefore the structural elements belong more clearly to the content side. Presentation encompasses all the ways the content—and the structure of the content—is presented. Anything which controls how the content appears rather than what it actually says is presentation. The separation of content and presentation may seem like a foreign concept since most of us are accustomed to making the visual choices related to content such as headings, paragraphs, lists, etc.
The Benefits of Separation
By separating the content from the presentation on your website you will ensure your web pages are more widely accessible to your potential clients. In practical terms, however, it can be extremely difficult to maintain the distinction between presentation and content since often we are unable to see the difference between what is being communicated and how it is being communicated. When you realize that even the most poorly formatted document nonetheless has a presentation in the form of layout, fonts, etc., you understand the difficulty in the clear separation.
How to Achieve Separation
The first step in the overall idea of separation is to build structure into web documents through the use of HTML which encodes headings, paragraphs and lists. The document which results from this step is richer in meaning and can be accessed by any web-enabled device in the necessary format. Think of your overall intentions when attempting to separate content from presentation—what is your content goal for your web users, and what do you think potential clients intend to do with that content? Do you think it is what they are searching for, what they need to answer their most pressing questions and problems?
To begin separation, start with plain text—that is, text which is placed in a notepad on Windows. Then use HTML tags which clearly mesh with the meaning of the content. Remember, HTML tags should describe the text placed inside rather than be placed simply to achieve a desired “look.” Double-check to ensure you are not accidentally placing presentation markup when new content is created and learn all the styles available to you. Take a look at your finished product—it should be simple, crisp and clear and you should know exactly what each HTML tag is being used for.
In the end, the separation of presentation and content can stop a simple design tweak from becoming a full-fledged re-design. Isolating content ensures adding and updating will be as simple as possible while design consistency is maintained throughout your sight. While the separation of content and presentation can make you want to throw up your hands in despair—don’t. There is plenty of high-quality help available to make the process as simple as possible.
Tuesday, May 8th, 2012
Today’s learners have a virtual arsenal of multimedia learning platforms merely a click away—in fact some consider the internet the greatest contributor to the learning process since the printing press was invented. Well, that’s certainly the theory and the potential of the web in any case. The reality tends to be a bit less spectacular. While most web owners and web creators spend hours and hours creating fabulous, flashy, imminently usable and always-accessible interfaces to host their hopefully high-quality content, the goals of the learner can be largely forgotten. In other words we have become so focused on keywords and headlines that reach out and grab the reader’s attention that we’ve let the content-rich website which actively encourages learning and exploration fall by the wayside.
Now as a legal professional, you may well wonder why you should care whether your firm’s website it learner-friendly—after all, your primary goal is to get conversions, right? Well, yes and no. Of course the overall goal of your website will be to reach those you might not otherwise reach, promote your specific services and end with lots of happy, satisfied clients. While this is certainly a worthy goal, it can benefit your business to take a closer look at what your users really want. Most people who seek out a legal website have a specific problem that they need information about. To provide this information in the most succinct manner possible, there are several things to keep in mind.
Narrative—Essential to Learning
All human communications essentially revolve around storytelling—we use storytelling both to create an emotional connection with one another and to convey information. Writers use narrative to connect what they know about the world with what their readers already know and want to know about the world. A story is exchanged and a personal connection is made. Through the information presented the reader is able to actually build their own narrative as they work their way through your legal website. Bits and pieces of information are soon converted into real knowledge. Your web users come to your website in an attempt to find information germane to their specific situation and to their lives. Those who spend their precious and limited time immersed in a content-rich website have the hope of being changed, having their outlook altered or gaining something they did not have before. In order for these hopes to be realized, your website must offer context to your readers in addition to narrative. Context helps your reader get the entire picture, facilitates understanding and, in the end, changes our way of thinking.
Remembering the Different Learner-Styles
Just as children learn in different ways, adults also have different styles of learning. While some prefer very structured, organized methods of learning—others will prefer a learning path which requires a bit of exploration. Therefore while the traditional navigational layout may appeal to many users, others may prefer a path of discoverability. If you are unsure what discoverability really means, think about Wikipedia which allows the reader to skip from one type of content to another, providing links which facilitate the ability to change topics easily without stopping the flow. Those who have used Wikipedia know that while they may have begun reading about a nuclear site in New Mexico they may have ended up reading about a horse farm in Maine. A stretch, but you get the idea! You can satisfy both types of learners by keeping your logical, well-laid out navigational tools while adding hyperlinking and visual representations of your message. In the end, you want to remember that your legal website should be a meaningful participant in a much greater story and should seek to create content that is truly worth discovering.